Tuesday, September 30, 2014

29 years in the making

Here it is.

The most important day in the past 29 years. A moment that we have waited to arise for almost 3 decades. A night we have dreamed of, agonized over, yelled at the TV for, and cursed at our owner/manager/players until we willed them to this day. 

Tonight, the Royals host a playoff game.

If you are from Kansas City (the 816, 913 and outer lying areas) and that sentence doesn’t give you chills or bring you to the brink of tears, then you are probably no longer clinically alive. 

The game starts in approximately 5 hours. The Plaza is festooned with Royals flags; the fountains that have given this glorious city its nickname are shooting blue water. Everyone has on their old George Brett #5 (or Moose #8 or even Gil Meche #55) t-shirt from some T-Shirt Tuesday. 

THIS IS THE MOST EXCITING DAY IN YOUR LIFE (Unless you are old enough to remember 1985. Most people reading this blog are probably not old enough to remember 1985 since the older generation never really learned what the internet is. Anyway, TODAY IS EXCITING). James Shields is pitching, in what might be his last game as a Royal. They are handing out Blue Rally Towels at The K. The weather looks perfect. Tailgating starts in 30 minutes and the air will soon be filled with the smell of hot dogs and beer and KC bbq that is so famous.

Drink it up. Take it all in. Buy some new Royals gear. Hug an old friend and make fun of Oakland fans since their football team is a joke. Cheer as loud as you can, even if you are not at the game.

I know I will be. In fact, I am going to try and make this the most Kansas City night ever had in the state of Texas (hopefully I can find some Boulevard and KC Masterpiece and some decent ribs here in Houston). Nights like these are so rare for KC. In fact, WEEKS like these are even more rare, with the Chiefs destroying the Patriots last night on Monday Night Football and Sporting KC heading to Washington DC tomorrow to meet the President and be congratulated for their MLS Championship. KANSAS CITY IS THE PLACE TO BE. I am so jealous of everyone going to the game tonight. Please go have some fun. Even if the Royals don’t defeat Jon Lester and his career 1.84 ERA against them. BECAUSE KC DESERVES THIS. You deserve this.

We are part of the Royals family and we are in the playoffs. The sweetest thing anyone can ever say.

Good luck tonight to the Boys in Blue. Each and every one of you who has given KC a source of pride.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Chicken soup for the playoff-deprived soul

(disclaimer: all text in caps should be read in a loud voice)

Ever have a nagging sickness drag you down? Put you out of commission? Make you feel like time was crawling along at a snail’s pace.

Well I have the remedy for you. It is simple. MAKE THE PLAYOFFS.

Have marital problems? MAKE THE PLAYOFFS.

Have an annoying canker sore? MAKE THE PLAYOFFS.

Is your car unreliable and refuses to start when you HAVE to present your latest budget proposal? You guessed it: MAKE THE PLAYOFFS.

Who cares about debt when you’re in the playoffs? Who needs counseling when you have clinched a berth in the postseason? What city cares about football when its baseball team is competing for a WORLD SERIES TITLE?

After 29 fruitless years, the KC Royals clinched a spot in the 2014 MLB playoffs and IT SOLVED EVERYTHING. Last night, there was not a single problem in the world. September 26, 2014 will forever be an important day for Royals fans. Their fanhood became legitimate. The Toronto Blue Jays now have the longest playoff drought in major professional sports. We all know their pain AND IT FEELS SO GOOD NOW THAT OUR PAIN IS GONE.

Kansas City is thriving – all three major sports teams made the playoffs in 2013-2014, with Sporting KC winning it all last year in the MLS and looking like they will make another postseason run (despite that awful loss last night). The Chiefs are deeper than ever thanks to head coach Andy Reid and GM John Dorsey and should be primed for multiple years in the playoffs, especially when Peyton Manning retires or is injured again. And those Royals…boy, it chokes me up.

Hos and Salvy hug after the Royals clinched a playoff berth
It took GM Dayton Moore 8 years, and the rest of the Royals 29 years, to get there. A turtle’s pace, but Moore did it:

Since 1985, people have lived and died, married and divorced, became doctors and lawyers, and four new presidents have been elected. Wars, terrorism, school shootings, and Lady Gaga have all taken over the world during the time the Royals have not been in the playoffs.

I really didn’t think I would cry. I thought I was tough enough and manly enough to hold it in, a GRITTY adult who had lived through 29 years of hard times. Men don't cry when their teams win a baseball game. But no one knows how much toll 29 years of hard times will do to their emotions, and for me, those emotions came out last night. Maybe I was drunk. Maybe it was just time to let it out. If my wife reads this and says anything, I can always deny it and keep my manhood intact. “You were sleeping, so what do you know?!” Either way, the KANSAS CITY ROYALS ARE IN THE PLAYOFFS. Go celebrate KC, you beautiful city. #GreatestDayEver

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Royal dislikes

As I write this, the Royals just blew a slim lead over the Indians and are now trailing 6-4. In a season where every tiny mistake is magnified due to the ramifications any mistake has on their playoff hopes, the Royals cannot afford to let leads slip away. They must play perfect baseball (perfect small ball, if you will), until the season ends this Sunday, in order to make the playoffs, which for them, will most likely be a one game Wild Card spot. Barf. 29 years of waiting for that?! I will take it but still…

As I watch this game, I can barely be happy for the Royals, who are inching closer to the Wild Card spot each day as the A’s and Mariners lose and the Tigers continue to hold onto first place in the AL Central. Instead of happiness, all I feel is frustration. You might ask, why am I frustrated? I thought I would just list things that frustrate me and you can see for yourself:

  • Detroit Tigers. HATE HATE HATE them. There is not one good thing about them except their disastrous 2003 season which is the worst ever for an AL team. 119 losses. Suck it losers.
  • Cleveland Indians. ABOSLUTELY despise these buttheads. The Royals cannot beat them to save their lives.
  • Miggy Cabrera. He is a slow fatty. The Royals also have a slow fatty in Billy Butler. Why can’t our slow fatty be good like him?
  • Detroit Red Wings. Those jerks have made the playoffs 23 straight times while the Royals have failed 29 straight times. It is not fair.
  • Justin Verlander. He sucked all year then started pitching good right when the Royals needed him to suck. I wish he would just run away with his bimbo girlfriend and never play baseball again. Also, I bet he wears skinny jeans, that douche.

  • Michael Brantley and Michael Bourn. The two Cleveland Michaels are jerks who have destroyed the Royals this year. You guys are probably not making the playoffs this year so suck it.
  • Salvador Perez. I used to love him but he swings at everything and never makes solid contact and is starting to become a liability for the Royals. TAKE A FRIGGIN’ BALL FOR ONCE you idiot.
  • Eric Hosmer. He too, swings at everything. It feels like Hosmer and Perez are competing for the most swings without making contact this season. Loser should buy every Royals fan a 12-pack. I will take Newcastle Brown Ale…
  • Kevin Seitzer. The Royals used to hit home runs when he was their hitting coach. Then he was fired. They have not hit any home runs since. And even though I am exaggerating for effect, it really does feel like they have not hit any since then, and I am guessing the reason why is because Seitzer put a curse on the Royals. You jerk.

And it looks like the Royals are going to lose so I will wrap this post up. I am going to make banana bread and cry myself to sleep. And even though I am just exaggerating for effect, I might just do that…

Monday, September 22, 2014

Adios, Goodbye

Although we still have the rest of this week left to determine if the Royals will be playing in the playoffs, I have already been looking ahead. Not to any potential playoff matchups, such as who might be the starting pitcher(s) in the postseason, or who the Royals might be playing. Rather, I am looking ahead to the release or departure of several players who will (hopefully) no longer play for Kansas City.

Please keep in mind that I love these Royals, no matter how negative I may come across on this blog. I tend to view my negativity as realistic observation, coupled with shrewd and insightful cynicism. For instance, I have absolutely hated on Mike Moustakas this season. He could not hit water if he fell out of a boat in the middle of Table Rock Lake, and as a result, he has probably cost the Royals several wins. If the Royals fail to make the playoffs this season, I will forever blame him for at least partially keeping them out. However, I recognize his value as a pretty decent fielder and do believe he can still have a good career as a slightly better than replacement level ballplayer. Does that mean I want him on the Royals next year? Read on below…

The Royals that I wish to see take a hike are listed below, in order of who needs to leave the team the most:
  1. Billy Butler. His hitting struggles this season have been well documented and I do not feel like I need to re-hash them here. However, I will point out that in addition to his terrible hitting and lack of value anywhere else on the field (except as a BACKUP first baseman), he is scheduled to earn  $12.5 MILLION DOLLARS in 2015. In hindsight, that contract looks AWFUL, but in all reality, Butler was on an upward trajectory when he signed. He was also only 24 years old, so there was a lot of hope he would contribute to the Royals finally making the playoffs, but since signing that contract in 2011, he has only had one good year (2012) and has bottomed out more or less since. More and more teams are getting rid of traditional designated hitters in favor of platoons and/or players who have some value in the field, and the Royals need to do the same. Billy Butler probably has some value as a backup DH and first baseman but NOT FOR $12.5 MILLION DOLLARS. Good riddance Billy.  
2. Scott Downs. I don’t have any real good data to back up my opinions on him, but Downs just sucks. I cringe every time he enters a game, just knowing he will blow any lead the Royals might have, or will contribute to making a deficit even worse. Looking at his 2014 stats, he has given up 21 earned runs, 20 bases on balls, and produced only 25 strikeouts. Pretty sh*tty for a reliever. The Royals can find a better lefty reliever or LOOGY than Downs. Easily (hint: Brandon Finnegan, if he is not yet ready to  be a starter yet). I miss Will Smith. *Sigh*

3.  Raul Ibanez. I will freely admit that I was excited when the Royals signed Ibanez after he was released by the Angels. I had missed those crazy pull dingers he used to blast when he burst out in the early 2000’s. However, he has been virtually worthless in his second stint with KC, putting up only 2 home runs and a measly .329 slugging percentage in 32 games. At 42 years old and the second oldest player in the MLB (Jason Giambi is 43), it is probably time for him to hang up his cleats. Maybe he could be a batting coach for Moose/Hosmer? I would welcome that

4. Bruce Chen. I know that technically Chen is a free agent and no longer plays for the Royals but I have this feeling that GM Dayton Moore will try to sign him this offseason, perhaps if one of the other projected starting pitchers (Vargas, Guthrie, Zimmer, Ventura, Duffy) gets hurt or needs surgery after this season. I always liked him even though he was mediocre at best, but please stop pitching for the Royals. If they offer you a contract, turn it down for Kansas City's' sake.  

Below are some Royals who are “on the fence,” by which I mean that they have overall been crappy this season, but put up enough statistics in some way to provide “value” to the team. If they provided some super strong assurance that they would not suck major a$$ in 2015 (possibly in the form of a pinkie square and giving back a portion of their contract to KC in the event that they fail again), then I might find it in my heart to bring them back. But If they want to be stubborn and remain stuck in their poor baseball ways, then they can make like a tree and GTFO.
  1. Nori Aoki. Another player that I was excited about when the Royals announced his signing, he has been the prototypical Royal this season: a solid mess up ups and downs and highs and lows and big at-bats followed by getting hit in the nuts multiple times this season. It is hard to characterize him easily. He started the season slow, sort of got mediocre, then got hurt and disappeared and then came back after the All Star Break and was En Fuego. He currently has one home run (career low for him) but leads the Royals with a .350 on-base percentage. Bring him back only if he PROMISES to hit more home runs and get on base at a .350 clip for the entire season. Without costing too much.
  2. Mike Moustakas. Ah, everyone’s favorite punching bag besides Billy Butler. At least Moose is fan friendly though. Butler just seems moody this season. Moose has been freaking awful all year. He has not really had any stretches where he hit well for more than maybe 2 at-bats at a time. Somehow he blasted 15 home runs (third on the team) but is sixth on the team in RBI’s. What a joke. Moose has been given many opportunities to earn his stripes, and was even demoted earlier this season to try to find his confidence/swing/swagger again. He beat up the Minor League pitching for a little while then came back to the Big Leagues and hit worse than you or I could. The Royals traded his backup, Danny Valencia, to the Blue Jays before the July 31 trade deadline, meaning we were stuck with Moose the rest of the season. He has been mostly decent at third base, but has cost the Royals a few runs in the past month or so with some crappy fielding. I am willing to give Moose one more chance. But the Royals have to provide more competition than Valencia to push Moose harder.
3. Greg Holland. Whoa, don’t be so taken back by this. I love Dirty South. Some of the best moments these past two seasons have been watching him pitch. And it feels like the only things certain in life are Death, Taxes, and Greg Holland closing out games. Except lately. Whether he has been more hurt than he lets on, or teams have finally figured out how to hit him, he has been less dominant this last month or so. Either way, despite the fact that he has been an integral piece of the Royals success the last two seasons, it is time for him to move on. First of all, he is going to command a lot of money in arbitration next year.  Second, the Royals already have Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera, and Luke Hochevar should be ready to reprise his role as eighth inning set up man in 2015. There is less of a need for Holland and even though I would love to have him around forever (like Mo Rivera for the Yankees), I also realize that relievers are a dime a dozen and the Royals need to use their money for a slugger more than another reliever. If only they could trade Holland (and Moose) for say, Nick Castellanos or Torii Hunter. IMO, that is a fair trade that helps both the Tigers and the Royals.

That is about it. I really like everyone else. Before this season, we were all in agreement that at least two out of Moose/Hosmer/Perez and Butler needed to show some progress this year in order for the Royals to be successful and make the playoffs. None of them did and they have still been a decent ballclub. Can you imagine if Moose and Hosmer had 20 home runs and batted at least .275 all year? The AL Central would have been wrapped up weeks ago. While it is nice to dream, I think I will be fine with the players above leaving KC and/or promising to NEVER EVER EVER suck again. And this is the longest post I have ever made on these Royals so I hope I still have some readers. I welcome any comments.

Go Royals.   

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Championship-deprived :(

I grew up in Blue Springs, Missouri. A town of 50,000 located in the eastern shadow of Kauffman and Arrowhead Stadiums in Kansas City. A great little suburb that gave birth to American Idol winner David Cook. Full of family values and several high school state championships. In fact, one of my favorite memories is watching the 1996 Blue Springs High School soccer team become the first non-St. Louis-area team win the Missouri High School Soccer championship. I get chills just thinking about Ari Rodopulous and Sam Murphy and Mark Shaver…whew! If you were at the playoff game at Rockhurst High School you know what I’m talking about…

Not to give you my entire life history, but I grew up a Kansas State University fan as my dad and his dad attended school there. I always enjoyed watching the Missouri Tigers as a child and I have forever hated the Kansas University Jayhawks. I attended UMKC and Missouri Western State University during my undergraduate years, then earned my Master’s degree at Kansas State (partly to honor my dad who had passed away 3 years before I went there), then obtained my PhD at the University of Iowa and completed my first year of postdoctoral training at Texas Tech University. The end result of all this is that I have many colleges and teams to root for. You might say I have cast as wide a net as possible in hopes of being able to cheer for a champion. A national champion or professional sports champion. Well let me tell you that despite the wideness of my net, I have very few championships at all. AND I DON’T LIKE IT. I thought I would dig a little into my colleges and team’s histories and report their last championships and any notable occurrences so everyone can see how Championship-deprived I am:

I will start with my Kansas City Chiefs, who have the best tailgating in the WORLD without contest:

Last championship: 1970. I was not alive.
Last playoff win: 1993. An entire generation has been born since their last playoff win. WTF
Current record: 0-2. They are not very good.
Most hated opponents: Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, Papa John’s pizza.

Next up, the team that will probably give me a heart attack one day: the Kansas City Royals:
Last championship: 1985. I was 3 years old. I hope I had a celebratory poop the night that the Royals won their first and only championship.
Last playoff win: 1985. 29 freaking years of futility. Don’t get me started or I will go on forever about the BS Royals’ fans have had to endure…
Current record: 83-69. They MIGHT make the playoffs for the first time in almost 3 decades.
Most hated opponents: Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Red Wings. You might ask, why are the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings one of the Royals’ most hated opponents? The answer is that during the Royals’ miserable 29-year playoff drought, the stupid Red Wings from the crappiest city alive have made the playoffs 23 straight years. F*** you Red Wings.

Kansas State University:
Last Championship: 2012. That year the Wildcats won the Big 12 in football, basketball (F*** you KU) and baseball. Everyone can suck it. K-State has never won a national championship in those sports though… L
Last playoff win: K-State football beat the crap out of Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in 2013. K-State basketball lost to Kentucky in the first round of the 2014 NCAA tourney. K-State baseball was crap last year.
Current record: K-State football is 2-1 after beating themselves against Auburn two days ago. Auburn did not win. K-State beat themselves. It was awful and that is all I will say. They will not be making the CFB playoffs or a January bowl game.
Most hated opponents: Kansas University Chickenhawks

Iowa Hawkeyes:
Last championship: The UI football team won the Big Ten in 2004. I did not attend UI until 2009 so I did not care about them in 2004. They won the National championship in 1958.
Last playoff win: I am not even going to bother looking this up because since their 2010 Orange Bowl win, they have been utterly crap.
Current record: 2-1. As I write this, the Hawkeyes are losing 20-17 to Pittsburgh. Neither team is ranked and the Hawkeyes only loss was to Iowa State who is TERRIBLE. So this season will clearly be a waste.
Most hated opponents: Iowa State Cyclones, Michigan Wolverines, Wisconsin Badgers

Missouri Tigers:
Not feeling like looking them up.

Texas Tech Red Raiders:
Not feeling like looking them up either. 

As you can see, I am incredibly Championship-deprived. With the exception of Sporting Kansas City/Kansas City Wizards who have won 3 total championships since 2000 ( I did not include them here because none of my friends like soccer – those friends are aholes), I have no national or professional championships that I can remember. None of my current teams will win a championship any time soon so I think it is time to start becoming a fair-weather fan for every good team. I think I will root for the Seattle Seahawks, the University of Oregon and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or whatever their name is…

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

For the Glory of the City

I will be honest: I did not watch the Royals game last night. They have wilted in the past three weeks, with a record of 10-10 since August 25, finally giving their hold on first place back to the Tigers. They currently sit 1.5 games behind Detroit, and after the suspended game with the Indians is officially completed this coming Monday, they will probably be 2 games behind. They do sit 2 games ahead of Seattle for the second Wild Card, so there is hope that they can still squeak through into the play-in game, which would likely be against Oakland. Better than nothing I guess. 

I did not watch the game last night because I had better things to do. I have given priority to the Royals MANY times over the years, and they have repaid that with awful baseball time and time again. As a true baseball fan, I can appreciate the small nuances and tactics that “small ball” teams like the Royals employ: things like good defense and stealing bases, pitchers that only pitch certain innings, and even bunting practically every time someone gets on base. While I enjoy a good home run as much as anyone, it is also exciting to me to watch a string of 3 singles in a row produce a run or two, followed by a starting pitcher dominate the opposing hitters once he has a lead. I do not mind if the Royals win a game 2-1, just as long as they win. And it is true that the Royals played decent small ball last night against the White Sox, walking off with a win after being down 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning with 2 outs. Speed, luck, and timely hitting, coupled with shutdown relief pitching, enabled the Royals to post a victory, a perfect example of small ball. If you haven't seen the video of the winning run yet, it is right here.

However, the Royals are the streakiest team in the MLB, and for every positive streak they put together, they seem to put together an equally devastating negative streak. They win a game 2-1, then they lose the next game 8-4. One step forward, one step back. They have put a lot on the line for this season and it feels like it will be a total waste if they do not make the playoffs. A waste of a season, a waste of being a fan, a waste of James Shields, a waste of an amazing hot stretch in August, and a waste of HOURS spent watching/writing/observing and discussing this team. I will probably always be a Royals fan, but right now it feels like I will have to stop caring as much until they prove that they want to win for KC, a city that has not seen a playoff victory in baseball or football in decades. 

As Rany points out here in his latest blog post, he is tired of writing the same old column about the same old problems. I feel the same. The Royals need to give us fans some hope. They need to give us more excitement, even if it comes in the form of a walk-off victory like last night. They need to realize that KC has suffered long enough and that they would be heroes if they can pull their heads out of their ass and finish their last 13 games with passion and fire and dedication to the franchise that has made most of them millionaires. There are hundreds of other things they need to do, but if I had to pick just one for the Royals to follow these last two weeks of the 2014 MLB season, it would simply be to play for the Glory of the City. 
Sporting KC, despite their strugglers as of late, has made playing for the Glory of the City emblematic of the soccer club. Their players embrace KC, and KC has embraced the players. They have passion, they sweat, bleed and cry, and they constantly thank the fans for their support. Their stadium is always full. Fans wear their gear with pride. The Royals have the opportunity these next two weeks for the same outcome. KC is a city on the verge of exploding if the Royals can make the playoffs. I can’t even imagine how amazing the plaza and downtown would look, or how the excitement and buzz around the city would feel, if the Royals can clinch a spot in the playoffs.

So my plea to the Boys in Blue is this: don’t settle for a wild card. You can catch Detroit. Step your game up. Compete with passion. Love your fans and embrace the Paris of the Plains. And above all, play for the Glory of the City.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Royal flush

Yesterday, the Kansas City Royals completed a season-long stink fest against crappy MLB teams by flushing their playoff chances down the toilet after losing to the last-place Red Sox. There is plenty of blame to go around: Ned Yost for his stubborn refusal to use his best relievers in a close game, Aaron Crow for pitching like it was batting practice, Mike Moustakas who not only cannot hit but cannot field anything either, etc. 

As a lifelong Royals fan, this one stings a lot. I was 3 years old when the Royals won the 1985 World Series and therefore I have not seen them in the playoffs for basically my entire life. I certainly feel like what was becoming a promising season has been reduced to a steaming pile of poo. I have never really hated on Ned Yost, but I wish I could flush him down the toilet right now:

I really don’t understand why, with their slim playoff chances slipping away, the Royals cannot find a way to step their game up. Since I am not a professional athlete, I have no idea if that is even possible, but what I do know is that the Royals can stop swinging at sh*tty pitches outside the strike zone, they can stop using Nori Aoki as the designated hitter (seriously, who puts their LEAST powerful hitter as the DH?!?!?!?!?!), they can stop bunting every time someone gets on base, and they can start trying harder against the worst teams in the league. It is so frustrating to beat the Oakland A’s, but lose to the Red Sox. Idiots.

Ironically, the Sports Illustrated jinx might have something to do with the slide. Since they were featured on the cover of the magazine, they have barely hovered at .500, with an overall record of 9-10 since August 25. Even KCTV5 pondered if the jinx would affect the Royals’ playoff chances... Dear SI, stop putting KC on the cover of your sh*tty magazine. We hate you.

The Royals have 14 games left, all of them against AL Central opponents. If they do not change something, and soon, it is very feasible that the Cleveland Indians (who currently sit 6.5 games behind Detroit in third place) could pass them in the standings. The Indians are a sh*tty team, but wouldn't that be a fitting end to a sh*tty season by the Kansas Sh*tty Royals. Sorry for cursing.